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At R. Premadasa Stadium, Colombo, September 11, 12, 13, 14. Sri Lanka won by an innings and 77 runs. Toss: Sri Lanka. Test debuts: C. N. Evans, A. R. Whittall.
The first Test between these countries on Sri Lanka soil was won by the host team in convincing manner. Sri Lanka achieved their eighth victory, and their first by an innings, in their 67 Tests on the fourth evening; but in fact the match lasted less than three days, with rain clipping more than seven hours' play.
The grassless pitch assisted spin from the day, and Zimbabwe's batsmen had no answer to Muralitharan and Silva, who finished with seven wickets each. It was a welcome return for Muralitharan, whose career had been threatened during his last Test, in December at Melbourne, when he was no-balled for throwing by Australian umpire Darrel Hair.
Zimbabwe had every reason to be happy, however, when they reduced Sri Lanka to 128 for five on the first day. Ranatunga had decided to bat first but, by the seventh ball of the morning, Zimbabwe had sent back both their openers. Fresh from their latest one-day triumph, the Sri Lankan batsmen were guilty of many loose shots. Ranatunga and Kaluwitharana put some sense into the batting with a face-saving sixth-wicket stand of 142, but neither survived long enough to complete the centuries which were there for the taking. Sri Lanka were eventually dismissed for 349 on the second morning. Leg-spinner Paul Strang ended a stubborn eighth-wicket stand of 74 between Dharmasena and Vaas by getting Vaas to play on, and made it three wickets in four balls to complete his first five-wicket haul in Test cricket.
Vaas, the only fast bowler in a side fielding three spinners, soon struck back by dismissing Grant Flower with the first delivery of the innings. His next victim, Campbell, who was caught at slip, was his fiftieth in only 13 Tests; he was the fifth Sri Lankan bowler to reach the landmark. Before long Zimbabwe were 45 for four. They needed 150 to save the follow-on and looked as if they might make it while Wishart was scoring a fighting 250-minute 51. But Silva finished the innings off, five short of the target, by removing Wishart and debutant Andrew Whittall with successive balls.
Play on the third day had been limited to the afternoon session, and the fourth morning was another blank. On resuming, however, Muralitharan and Silva swiftly wrapped up Zimbabwe's second innings, claiming nine wickets between them. After tea, Zimbabwe lost their last six wickets for 34 runs in 66 minutes, recording their lowest Test score, 127. Their previous low was 134 against Pakistan at Karachi in 1993- 94.
Man of the Match: A. Ranatunga.
Close of play:First day, Sri Lanka 290-7 (H. D. P. K. Dharmasena 16*, W. P. U. J. C. Vaas 3*), Second day, Zimbabwe 105-6 (C. B. Wishart 31*, C. N. Evans 0*), Third day, Zimbabwe 20-0 (G. W. Flower 13*, M. H. Dekker 6*).